Every year, after the newness of that first beautiful snow has worn off, I start to feel like I might be allergic to to the cold. Between the general feeling of malaise from starting and ending every day in darkness, and the raw, dry skin that develops in response to the raw, dry temperatures outside, it may feel like an allergy — but actually it's just an aversion. I dislike the cold, but I'm not really allergic to it. People who have an allergy to the cold, also known as cold urticaria, are actually allergic to cold temperatures. And if you thought you hated the cold, you've got nothing on the folks who suffer from this condition.
For people with cold urticaria, exposure to cold temperatures triggers an allergic response that can result in hives, swelling and itching so intense that it makes it difficult to drive, cook or concentrate on work or classes. In mild cases, the part of the body that is exposed to the cold may develop redness or swelling, but for others with more severe allergies, full body reactions can occur with even minimal exposure to cold, resulting in fainting, shock or even death.
Cold urticaria most frequently affects young adults, and many sufferers will generally grow out of the condition within a few years. But, for sufferers, that does not make their time with the condition any easier. Mehak Anwar wrote about what it is like to live with a literal allergy to the cold and not be able to do things like take ice cubes out of the tray (her hands would swell), enjoy ice cream on a summer day (her tongue and throat would swell) or even go ice skating. ("If I fall and my skin makes contact with the ice, it's all over," says Anwar.)
Right now, there is no cure for cold urticaria. Sufferers must try to minimize exposure to cold temperatures whenever possible and get by with a series of antihistamines and/or local anesthetics that help to alleviate their symptoms when they erupt.
And you thought you were excited to see spring.